From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Executive Chairman, Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mohammed Bello, has neutralized the general statement that political office holders in Nigeria are earning jumbo salaries.
In an interview with BBC Hausa, Bello said that such believe or statement is a misconception, stressing that many Nigerians earn more salaries and entitlements than the President.
He was also concerned about unequal pay among workers of same level and qualifications in different government establishments.
How are you playing your roles effectively as a Commission?
Well, we do a lot but key among our functions is the follow and monitor the revenue collection system. When they are collected, we also follow the distribution/allocation to different levels of government, notably, Federal, States and Local Governments including the FCT. From time to time, we also run a check on how these resources are allocated to the states and how they are used. Every five years, we are mandated by law to carry out a review of the allocations formula, and if all stakeholders accept the outcome of the review, it becomes a law. Also, we provide proper guide and advice to different levels government on how best to improve on their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and the expenditure. We are also responsible for the fixing of the salaries and other entitlements of some key political office holders including the members of the judiciary. Our establishment Act also empowered us to ask questions about expenditures of any agency of the government and other related matters. However, five key agencies were mentioned in the Act, namely, NNPCL, DPR, FIRS, Customs and CBN, as well as the Federal Ministry of Finance.
What formula or mechanisms are you using to distribute these revenues to states?
The formula we are currently using is outdated. It’s recommended that we review the formula every five years but that has not happened. The last review of the sharing formula was done 30 years ago. It’s not that we have not tried to do that, it’s just that it has not been possible. We have presented the requests to review the formula twice but the request was rejected. But we are hopeful and optimistic that the review will be done soon. We must know that in the past 30 years that the last review was done, lots of things have changed. Many things have happened in the economy and the nation at large. Number of states increased to 36, local governments increased to 774 and lots of other differences that have been recorded over the years.
Many people are asking why workers in agencies like NNPC, CBN and some others earn more in salaries and allowances more than workers in Ministries even when they have same qualifications and responsibilities?
That may be what their establishment Act recommended. However, it’s an unfair treatment that some workers with same qualifications and responsibilities are earning more than others because of where (agencies) they work. But it may be that the decision was taken in order to attract and keep the best hands and brain in such establishments. But that’s not enough reason for the inequality in pay for people in different establishment. We have observed that there are 17 categories of salaries for government workers in Nigeria, and it differs from different establishments. In my opinion, it’s better to harmonize the salaries so that people can be treated fairly when it comes to financial reward for output.
Are you suggesting equal pay, increase or reduction for some workers?
The decision will be taken by all stakeholders involved in salary review. Take for instance, a university graduate working with the Ministry of Finance may earn salary seven times less than what same university graduate working with CBN or FIRS will earn. Both graduates might have studied same discipline and graduated with same class of degree. That’s an unfair treatment and need to be reviewed as quickly as possible. However, I heard there are people working on that already. And National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission is assisting on that.
What about that of the political office holders?
Honestly, there has been lots of misconceptions and misinformation
about this issue of salaries and entitlements of politicians. The salary of these political office holders are not as huge as people thinks. Salary of a lawmaker is not up to N600, 000. For instance, the salary of the Senate President is not up to a million Naira. So are that of other lawmakers and even the Secretary to Government of the Federation. They earn between N600, 000 to N700, 000 to N800,000. The salary of the President is not more N1.3 million inclusive of allowances. These figures were fixed in 2007/2008 when minimum wage was N5,000. So, it’s untrue that politicians earn jumbo salaries and allowances. That thought is not correct and should be disregarded. Remember these people have constituency offices and staff are hired to run the offices and other engagements. At the end of their tenure, the law recommended that they be paid severance package. A governor gets N6million while the President is given little above N10 million. States government does other things but those things are not our concern. Many of them may be operating within their local laws but not binding at the federal level. Unfortunately, some of these states have mismanaged their resources, even when they are owing the federal government trillions of Naira. For instance, I know an agency of government (name withheld) that generated N49bn few years ago and spent all of them. Meanwhile, the agency rely on government for salaries, overhead cost and other concurrent funds. We have many of such agency in Nigeria here.
Is it your responsibility to checkmate these people and take actions where necessary?
Yes, it is. But it’s not only our responsibility. Office of Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF), Federal Ministry of Finance, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and other related agencies have a role to play. We are doing our best and these other agencies are also doing theirs to ensure that we achieve the desired result. Some successes have been recorded but more actions are required to sanitize our financial system.